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Sask. needs to improve health-care hiring plan as 2,200-worker shortage looms: auditor

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Sask. needs to improve health-care hiring plan as 2,200-worker shortage looms: auditor
According to the provincial auditor, the Saskatchewan Health Authority is projecting a shortage of 2,200 “hard-to-recruit” health-care workers over the next five years – Dec 7, 2022

While she says Saskatchewan’s Health Human Resources Action Plan is a step in the right direction, Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor says enhancements are needed to ensure accessible health care.

According to her latest report, released Tuesday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority is projecting a shortage of 2,200 “hard-to-recruit” health-care workers over the next five years.

“At the end of the day, we’ve made recommendations. They’re going to have to do more than the status quo,” Tara Clemett said at the legislature Tuesday.

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“What we would like to see them do is better identify targeted plans in terms of what are the root causes that perhaps they have difficulties. What do they need to do to get people to want to work in rural and remote Saskatchewan?”

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Saskatchewan Provincial Auditor

Specifically, the SHA is projecting a need for 840 continuing care assistants, 180 medical laboratory technicians and 520 registered nurses.

“We have emergency rooms, we have lab services that aren’t available to the people of Saskatchewan because we don’t have the staff to deliver those services,” Clemett said.

“This is why ERs are not open all of the hours they should be or are closed in totality, because we don’t have registered nurses in various parts of the province.”

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Sask. needs to improve health-care hiring plan as 2,200-worker shortage looms: auditor - image
Saskatchewan Provincial Auditor

Clemett made seven recommendations in her report.

Among them is a recommendation to “determine the optimal supply of new graduates needed to help address staffing shortfalls.”

“Sometimes the government’s paying for training out of the province. They don’t actually know if those people are coming back to Saskatchewan,” Clemett said.

“With staff exit interviews, they don’t know why people are leaving and if there’s something they can be doing better to keep them here.”

Clemett is also recommending establishing a First Nations and Metis recruitment and retention plan.

“Are there housing options? Is there spousal employment that can be provided?” Clemett asked.

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“The focus can’t just be about getting more people into Saskatchewan. It’s about retaining the current workforce the Authority has as well. What can be done to make them stay?”

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Sask. needs to improve health-care hiring plan as 2,200-worker shortage looms: auditor - image
Saskatchewan Provincial Auditor

Speaking Tuesday afternoon, Opposition Leader Carla Beck said the report didn’t come as a surprise.

“It is deeply concerning that we are losing 600 more health-care workers than recruiting right now,” she said, referencing another statistic in the report showing that in 2021-22 the SHA had about 3,500 new hires and about 4,100 terminations.

“The insufficiency of the plan that the government is holding up as the Holy Grail to health care, I think this confirms what health-care workers and communities are telling us that it’s inadequate and not working.”

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Health Minister Paul Merriman, newly returned from a health care hiring mission in the Philippines, expressed confidence in his government’s plan Tuesday.

“We’re starting to see some of the results of that,” he said.

“Recruitment in the Philippines went extremely well – 129 offers were made to individuals, and these are individuals who are extremely excited to come to Saskatchewan.”

Merriman said, though, that the province accepts all of the Auditor’s recommendations.

“We’re going to fill all the positions that we need to fill,” Merriman said.

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